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In scientific writing, I always feel the need to logically connect all my sentences to have a clear logical path between beginning and end of a paragraph, else it is just feels like a list of random phrases to me and not a complete argument. However, more often than not, the only fitting connector is "however", as "but" is informal. Is it acceptable to use "however" very often or is that bad style and in the latter case, how can I improve it?

An example

Blue data is better than red data. Standard algorithms, however, are all written with red data in mind and don't work on blue data. Violet algorithms handle blue data as well as red data, however they are very slow. Blue-only algorithms can process blue data really fast, however most blue data is mixed with a small percentage of red data.

closed as off-topic by Vilmar, Robusto, Kristina Lopez, Dan Bron, Nick2253 Apr 28 '15 at 15:13

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this quiestion is more suitable on Writers – Vilmar Apr 28 '15 at 13:25
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    Try using but where you feel however might be getting too much play. It is not informal at all, and shows up in, oh, every published paper you've ever read. Maybe in every published paper anybody has ever read. – Robusto Apr 28 '15 at 13:34
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    You might try some of these if you are looking for synonyms. – Lucky Apr 28 '15 at 13:37
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    I would suggest practising to write without the word "however" or obvious drop-in replacements. A step in this direction: "Blue data is better than red data and this is problematic for the following reasons: first, standard algorithms are written with red data in mind, which means that they cannot be applied to blue data; second, violet algorithms process blue data and red data but handle both very slowly; finally, while blue-only algorithms can process blue data really fast, the issue arises that almost all blue data is mixed with a small percentage of red data." – sketchyTech Jun 29 '16 at 15:10
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    ... What you'll notice is that the howevers enable you to employ elision and without them you are forced to be more descriptive and exact in your choice of verbs and adjectives. The ambiguity then drops. Note: ambiguity is also generated by terms like "such as" and "etc". There are many places in academic writing where ambiguity needs to be addressed for the benefit of the reader and the writer alike. – sketchyTech Jun 29 '16 at 15:18
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Yes, however is fine and extremely common in scientific writing. There's nothing wrong with but either, by the way. You can also use other alternatives. For example:

Blue data is better than red data. Standard algorithms, however, are all written with red data in mind and don't work on blue data. Violet algorithms handle blue data as well as red data, but they are very slow. On the one hand, blue-only algorithms can process blue data really fast; on the other hand, most blue data is mixed with a small percentage of red data.

What is certainly true, however, is that not only is the word however used in scientific writing, it is far more common there than anywhere else. See this COCA result:

COCA diagram showing that however is more common in academic writing

  • "There's nothing wrong with _but _either, by the way." I agree. – Marius Hancu Apr 28 '15 at 13:53
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Possible fixes:

Blue data is better than red data. Standard algorithms, on the other hand, are all written with red data in mind and don't work on blue data. Violet algorithms handle blue data as well as red data, yet they are very slow. Blue-only algorithms can process blue data really fast, even though most blue data is mixed with a small percentage of red data.

Also, consider the alternatives:

Synonyms for however adv

still, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, withal, yet, after all, all the same, anyhow, be that as it may, but, despite, for all that, howbeit, in spite of, on the other hand, per contra, though

[Sorry, Lucky, I didn't see your link at the time of editing; you were earlier]

  • Thanks for the great rewrite! The last sentence, however, has a meaning different from what I intended but I guess I didn't express it clearly (meaning blue-only algorithms don't work on the usual blue mixed with a bit of red). But it is just a test sentence so it's not so important. – Konrad Höffner Apr 28 '15 at 14:27
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If you start the statement with "while" or "although" once in a while, you can cut out some of the "however's".

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In many cases cases you use however improperly, and you refer to the wrong points. In addition to 'however' the formal writing connectors can be

  • although
  • whereas
  • while
  • whilst

I rewrote your piece, with my suggestions in bold and unnecessary words in [brackets]

Blue data is better than red data, although standard algorithms [, however,] are all written with red data in mind and don't work on blue data. While violet algorithms handle blue data as well as red data, [however] they are very slow. Blue-only algorithms can process blue data really fast, however most blue data is mixed with a small percentage of red data.

Also be careful with 'as well as'. While it can not be confused with ',as well as' meaning 'along with' because it would have been prefixed with coma in that case, it is better to use 'as efficiently as' instead for better clearness.

  • Are you sure the first sentence is correct? I interpret "although" to mean "even though" ("he is a good man even if he doesn't pay taxes") while I wanted to say "while he is a good man, he doesn't pay taxes" (for me, the first version sounds defensive while the second sounds less judgemental). – Konrad Höffner Apr 28 '15 at 14:32
  • @Konrad Höffner - 'Although' = 'though', and I understand my own sentence in this way: Blue data is better than red data, but standard algorithms are all written with red data in mind and don't work on blue data. – alx Apr 28 '15 at 14:48

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